2,500 doses have arrived in Ontario, but unvaccinated residents can’t find them
Priscilla Ki Sun Hwang · CBC News · Posted: Dec 11, 2021 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: 8 hours ago
Ontario received 2,500 Johnson & Johnson vaccines in recent weeks. While rollout has begun in other provinces like Manitoba and Alberta, some people in Ontario are still struggling to access it. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)
Despite Ontario receiving 2,500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, some who waited for that vaccine say they’re frustrated by a lack of information on its whereabouts, and they’re desperate to get the shot.
Also known as the Janssen vaccine, the single-dose non-mRNA vaccine has been approved for use in Canada since the spring for those 18 and older. It hadn’t been administered until now because of a quality control issue at a U.S. manufacturing plant.
Ontario was among the provinces who received a shipment from the federal government in recent weeks, and each has been determining who it’s offered to and how it’ll be distributed.
This week, Ontario’s Ministry of Health told CBC in an email the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine will be available to adults who either had an allergy or severe reaction to an mRNA vaccine, or by request from those who have not yet been vaccinated.
“These individuals should contact their local public health unit,” wrote a health ministry spokesperson.
But Frank D’Angelo, who’s been holding out for the J&J shot, said when he called his local health unit in Guelph, Ont., he was told to call the Ontario government.
“They didn’t know too much about it, so they referred me to Ontario public health,” said D’Angelo, who’s 75.
He said a nurse with the province took down his information and told him he’s on a waiting list.
Why is it so much trouble to go about getting this particular vaccine?
– Mike Arturi, Toronto resident
“I’m registered to get a shot of the J&J. Whether or not it’s going to be one of these 2,500, or some more that they’re going to order — I don’t know, but they will get back to me,” he said Friday.
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health said Friday it’s possible when D’Angelo called, it didn’t have guidance on how to access the vaccine. A spokesperson said it will now have a nurse take down people’s information if they’re interested in the J&J shot, and will contact them once they receive supply from Ontario.
Frank D’Angelo, 75, says he hopes to get a Johnson & Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccine soon. (Submitted by Frank D’Angelo)
‘Dumbfounded’ by search for 1-dose vaccine
Meanwhile, Mike Arturi from Toronto says for the past few weeks, he’s contacted the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Minister Christine Elliott, Premier Doug Ford, his local MPP, and mayor, along with several local public health units — and has received little to no response on how to get his J&J shot.
“I was kind of dumbfounded by this whole situation. I didn’t realize how difficult it was to get a vaccine,” said Arturi, who’s been temporarily suspended without pay from his workplace for not being vaccinated.
He’s hesitant to get an mRNA shot due to his questions about it being unanswered. A few of his colleagues also travelled to Manitoba recently to get their J&J shots, he said.
“They drove back, and they told me they took the shot, and they’re actually working right now,” said Arturi
His deadline to upload his vaccine record is now Dec. 30, and if he misses that deadline, he says he’ll be fired. Despite not being a resident of Hamilton, Ont., Arturi said that city’s public health unit put him on a waiting list Friday with no guarantee he’ll get an appointment. That unit also doesn’t have any doses currently available, he said.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “I’m vaccine hesitant, but I’m not against vaccines. But why is it so much trouble to go about getting this particular vaccine?”
As of Friday afternoon, the Ontario COVID-19 booking portal still only listed Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines as the available options for both first and second doses.
I’m not an anti-vaxxer but: Ontarians share unique vaccine stories
Ontario’s health ministry did not answer CBC’s questions on how it plans to distribute doses to each local health unit, and how it will determine how many each will get.
It also didn’t answer whether the J&J vaccine will be available to those who want it as a third booster shot.
The ministry said it’s only received a quarter of its provincial allocation of 10,000 doses due to available supply — and it’s requested more in the short-term.
On Monday, Ottawa Public Health told CBC that it’s currently not offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and said more details will be available on how to access it “in the weeks to follow.”